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The Complete Extended Essay Guide | 100 Topics & Examples

Published by at November 3rd, 2021 , Revised On July 10, 2023

One of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme’s mandatory requirements is to produce a 4,000 words long extended essay, which should be submitted as an independent piece of research.

All IB students must complete the extended essay assignment regardless of the subjects they are taking because, together with CAS and TOK, it is a core module of the IB programme.

An extended essay allows students to choose any suitable topic of their choice and demonstrate their knowledge and capability beyond what they learn in the classroom. This assignment sets the stage for students to hone their research and writing skills for Bachelor’s and Master’s level coursework.

Students write an extended essay in the second term of the IB program’s first year. All students are expected to work closely with their supervisor to finalise the essay topic and the research questions.

The project involves submitting one extended essay draft to get the supervisor’s feedback before submitting the second and final version. A short viva voce must be included at the end of the essay.

Extended Essay Facts

  • The length of the essay should not be more than 4,000 words.
  • The project is expected to be completed over a period of one year.
  • Significance of the extended essay
  • In 2019 – approximately 200,000 students took the IB Programme exam
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is for students in the age group of 16 to 19 years.

Significance of Extended Essay

So how significantly does the extended essay assignment contribute towards the overall grade?

The extended essay is of critical importance for the following reasons:

  • It allows students to polish their skills for undergraduate and Masters’s level essay assignments.
  • They can independently explore the topic of their interest, which relates to one of the six modules of the IB Programme.
  • Students learn to conduct desk-based research to find appropriate and manageable topics.
  • They learn the basics of how to formulate research questions
  • They learn to develop an argument.
  • Successful completion of this assignment enhances their ability to analyse and assess information critically.

If you choose to undertake the extended essay in world studies, you will be required to conduct extensive interdisciplinary research on an issue of global significance.

Extended Essay Assessment Criteria

Extended essays are marked on a scale from 0 to 34 by external examines chosen by the IB itself.
The score you will achieve in the assignment will relate to one of the following bands:

  • A – work of an excellent standard.
  • B- work of a good standard.
  • C – work of a satisfactory standard.
  • D- work of a mediocre standard.
  • E- work of an elementary standard.

Please click here to check how your grade in the extended essay assignment affects the overall diploma score.
Here is the breakdown of EE scores (from the May 2019 bulletin)

Extended Essay Grade % of Students Awarded Grade
A 10.9%
B 23.5%
C 38.0%
D 25.1%
E 1.5%
N (No grade awarded) 1.0%

How to Select a Topic for the Extended Essay?

Selecting an enjoyable and manageable topic for the extended essay is perhaps the most exciting yet challenging part of the whole process. In a nutshell, you will be required to research a topic in one of the six subjects you are undertaking for the IB Programme.
The selection criteria are based on the analysis of an issue of global significance in a specific context. For example, you can investigate technological, environmental, medical, or cultural trends from the local perspective.
Here are some tips for choosing the best extended essay topic:

  • It should neither be too broad nor too narrow.
  • Choose a topic you are passionate about.
  • Are there any global trends you are curious to explore and understand?

Choosing the topic can often be overwhelming. Think about the issues you enjoy the most, and more specifically, why you want to learn about them. This will help you develop many ideas that you can review, compare, and pick from.
Note: The IBO approves the proposed topic.

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How to Formulate Research Questions for the Extended Essay?

Once the topic has been approved, you can proceed to formulate the research questions (s). A poorly planned research question can cause complications at a later stage, so make sure to take your time to develop a question that would genuinely add value to the existing literature.

The answer to the formulated research question should not be a simple yes or no. It should instead provide valuable information in a larger context. The research question should be focused and relevant to the title. If the research question includes a hypothesis, then there is no obligation on your part to provide it right or wrong. Your job is to test the hypothesis and reveal the facts only.

The question should not necessarily start with words like “Is”, “Will”, “Should”, “Why”, “How”, or “Does”. Merely asserting that “yes, this is correct”, or “no, this is not correct” is inappropriate.

The highest-scoring essays usually address a research question that starts with broader phrases such as, “An investigation of”, “Exploring the idea”, “An analysis of”, “To what extent”, “A review of”, or “Examining the role”. Or it could simply be a hypothesis statement that you aim to test.

If you set out to answer a research question without contemplating the resources required to address it, then you are making a fatal mistake. Whether the essay research is primary or secondary, we cannot understate the importance of a well-thought-out plan to gather relevant supporting academic sources.

However, in most cases, it is only possible to base your essay on secondary data because conducting primary research can involve time and money. But make sure to state your reasons for choosing one research method over another.

Finally, if you cannot find a sufficient number of sources for your research question, you can alter it with your supervisor’s help.

Also read: Mental health essay topics

Choosing the Supervisor

Here are some suggestions on how to choose an advisor

  • If you are unsure about who you would like to work with, create a list of potential advisors.
  • The supervisor should be familiar with your topic.
  • Pick an advisor who would get the best out of you.
  • An advisor who is patient with you would not mind reviewing several drafts of your essay and providing feedback.
  • It would be best if you were comfortable discussing ideas with them.
  • The supervisor should know you well personally because their assessment will contribute towards your final EE score. A teacher who does not know you well may not assess you fairly.
  • Simply having your favourite teacher as an advisor may not be a good idea because they may not be familiar with the topic.
  • Check whether your school requires the advisor to sign a consent form and make the necessary arrangements.

Structure of an Extended Essay

The extended essay follows the standard essay structure, including the introduction, main body, and conclusion. However, always check with your supervisor about the structure you must follow to avoid complications later.

Your supervisor will provide the necessary guidance and advice to support you throughout the research and writing process.

The project includes up to three reflection rounds with the assigned supervisor, with the final round consisting of an interview, also known as the viva voce.

The extended essay and the reflection meetings provide a much-needed impetus, especially to those required to pass an interview assessment for a place at university and before acceptance for employment.

There are six required components of an extended essay structure:

Title Page

The title page is where you state the research question you set out to address, the subject you are studying, your school name, your name, total word count of the essay, and category (for language essays).

Contents Page

This is where you must list the heading and the subheadings with corresponding page numbers. All pages should be numbered using the Microsoft page numbering feature.


The extended essay’s introduction should provide a brief background to the research question, thesis statement, and the central argument presented in the essay.

Main Body

This is where you present your arguments, evaluation, comparison, discussion, and analysis of the subject matter. This section’s structure varies according to the subject of the essay, but the supporting evidence should accompany every piece of information.


The conclusion section should relate to the thesis statement, the overall scope of the research, and the line of argument taken. It should also reflect any open questions, research limitations, and unexplained problems.

References and Bibliography

A list of academic sources used is provided in the required citation style at the end of the essay. The citation style you need to follow varies subject to subject, but make sure you consistently use it throughout the essay.

The deadline you Need to Meet

Your school will let you know the deadline for the extended essay assignment. Each school has a different official IB deadline. You will have a year to complete the essay, but unfortunately, most students leave their essay to the last week before the deadline.

Careful planning can help you complete the task promptly and avoid a last-minute crunch. Many students make the fatal mistake of giving too much time to research and reading and with very little time to write an essay.

Most schools set their deadlines for different project milestones to help students stay on schedule. Keep in regular contact with your advisor and management to ensure each section is completed in due time.

The viva voce Interview

The viva voice interview allows students to demonstrate the significance of the research results. More specifically, students can provide details of the challenges and the successes of their research during the interview.

For example, you could tell your supervisor about the problem you faced during the data collection process, the strategies you used to overcome them, and how the exercise helped improve your writing skills.

Free Extended Essay Topics

Here are some amazing topic ideas in various subjects that you can consider for your extended essay.

Biology Extended Essay Topics

  1. Investigate the relationship between indole acetic acid, a growth hormone, and the growth of X (a crop).
  2. To examine the relationship between the population size of X and population density between X.
  3. How significantly do live cultures in dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese reduce the concentration of lactose present for a 2 hour incubation period at x °C?
  4. Discuss the relationship between the production process of plants and the climate.
  5. To examine the possibility of manufacturing flowers.
  6. An investigation into the idea of planting healing a disease.
  7. The impact of various drugs on the functioning of the human brain
  8. Does the change of habitat affect the life of an organism?
  9. Investigate the process of storing cow’s milk safely.
  10. The relationship between the photoreceptor cells in the human retina and “the age and gender”.
  11. Examining the growth of an X plant when the climate changes
  12. Neadderthalian DNA in people who have European ancestors

Psychology Extended Essay Topics

Discuss the relationship between violent acts and viewing the violence shown on social media platforms.

  1. Can drug therapy heal bipolar disorder?
  2. Can General Anxiety Disorder be healed through meditation?
  3. Examining the relationship between cognitive environment and social variables such as educational setting, poverty, culture, parenting, and more
  4. How do our relationships evolve? Why causes a relationship to an end?
  5. Investigate the effects of domestic violence on the human brain.
  6. Discuss the causes of depression from a psychological perspective.
  7. Different between female and male schizophrenia.
  8. The relationship between General Anxiety Disorder and stress
  9. The relationship between stress and bulimia medical condition
  10. The relationship between obesity and our social media-oriented lifestyle
  11. What causes suicide? How do suicidal behaviours develop over time?

English Extended Essay Topics

  1. The importance of learning English literature in the modern world
  2. Examine the importance of the literary function of the English language.
  3. Explore the relationship between politics and social Darwinism.
  4. Sexual and ethnic identity in the twenty-first century
  5. The impact of the English language on any other language of your choice
  6. Comparing English learning bend with other languages
  7. The distinct patterns of the United States English phonetics.
  8. Identifying the use of the Sanskrit language in English
  9. Tracing the differences between British English and American English in a systematic way
  10. Identify the English phrases and words embraced by other Hindi and Urdu languages during the British Raj
  11. The influence of the French language on the evolution of the English language.

Literature Extended Essay Topics

  1. Examine the significance of different Noble prize winners in the literature on the stylistic evolution.
  2. An analysis of the controversy surrounding Bob Dylan’s Noble prize award
  3. The Role of Emile Zola’s “J’accuse” in the Dreyfus Affair.
  4. Analysing Jane Austen
  5. Jame’s Baldwin’s illustration of Racism.
  6. The evolution of an ideal woman in English literature
  7. The traits of the Islamic religious text
  8. Emma by Jane Austen and the importance of Dance
  9. An investigation of Severus Snape’s character in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secret. What are the similarities and differences between J.K Rowling’s characterization of Severus in the two novels?
  10. The evolution of the character of Bilbo Baggins from Lord of the Rings to the Hobbit Sequel

Literature Extended Essay Topics

Economics extended essay topics

  1. The impact of Covid-19 on the global airline industry
  2. How Covid-19 has forced car manufacturers around the work to redesign its economic model
  3. The growing importance of the role of India in the world economy
  4. China’s plans to take over the world economy by 2050 – How valid is this statement?
  5. The role of the road infrastructure in the development of a growing country such as Afghanistan
  6. The relationship between an increase in exports and empowerment of the local farmers in an agricultural country like India
  7. Tax handling in a world dominated by multinationals.
  8. The impact of an ageing population on Japan’s economy
  9. Offshore tax havens and the corruption of politicians. How can this trend be stopped?
  10. The impact of Brexit on the UK’s economy. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages from the UK’s perspective.

Movie and Film Extended Essay Topics

  1. The elements of social protest in Charlie Chaplin’s films
  2. How modern have computer capabilities revolutionized conventional cinematography?
  3. Avoiding the “soap opera” effect – why movies stay at 24 frames per second (including future predictions)
  4. Moving camera – revolutionary ideas (for example, as depicted in the Matrix and the Tenet)
  5. Correlation between IMDB marks and differing nationwide and film that is international
  6. Metamorphosis of masculinity in our contemporary world as depicted in battle club
  7. Kinds of timeline manipulation approach to paper writing service cinematography
  8. Massively distorted scientist or systematic technique depiction in Sci-Fi films

History Extended Essay Topics

  1. The rise of the Ottoman Empire – An analysis of the role of King Salman-II
  2. How significant was the battle of Vienna in European history?
  3. The implications of the British Raj on the Indian Subcontinent
  4. Discuss the reasons that caused the Arabs to lose in six days against resurging Israel?
  5. The treatment of women in India of the 1950s vs India of 2000s
  6. The history behind the animosity between two nuclear-armed neighbours – India and Pakistan
  7. An investigation of the events led to Hitler’s rise to power in Germany.
  8. The simultaneous invasion of Poland by the USSR and Nazi Germany in the second world war
  9. An examination of the pearl harbour attack from the Japanese perspective
  10. What caused the abnormal expansion of the Islamic empire between the 8th century and the 10th

Geography Extended Essay Topics

  1. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) significance for Chinese economic domination
  2. An analysis of the current climate change trends and their impact on our oceans
  3. Discuss and evaluate the various strategies used to prevent power outages caused by solar storms.
  4. India’s improving fertility rate’s relationship with women empowerment and improved women education environment
  5. To what extent is biodiversity being managed in Regent’s Park in London.
  6. The relationship between obesity risk and parameters such as educational environment, gender, genes, and social settings
  7. Examine the affectivity of the environmental sustainability programme initiated by company X.
  8. Compare a country with no access to the sea with the one that has access to it.
  9. An analysis of the agricultural revolution impact on the world’s environment
  10. Does geography influence the social relationships between people?

Mathematics and Physics Extended Essay Topics

  1. General functions of the theory of partitions
  2. General relativity and cosmology
  3. Symmetries of plane tessellations
  4. Egyptian forces in arithmetic
  5. A review of the various methodological approaches employed by academic researchers
  6. Why do planets move the way they do? What causes their circular motion?
  7. An investigation into the string theory
  8. How quantum physics has the potential to change the rules of science?
  9. The basics of dynamics – forces and motion
  10. Discuss the different types of forces, including magnetic force, quantum force, and physical
  11. The quantum movement of particles
  12. How much of an influence does the quantum slit experiment have on traditional Newtonian physics?
  13. The nature and behaviour of light
  14. The cosmic patterns of stars and planets
  15. Gravitational waves – generation, propagation rules, detection on Earth?
  16. Is there scientific proof of the existence of another intelligent species in the universe like humans?

Frequently Asked Questions

The Extended Essay is a research-based academic project undertaken by International Baccalaureate (IB) students. It allows them to investigate a topic of interest in depth, develop critical thinking skills, and produce a 4000-word essay.

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